Friday, November 03, 2017

Role Models

My parents belonged to the Moose Club, and when, on a Saturday night, they were unable to find a baby sitter for me, they would take me along. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about these forays, since there was very little for kids to do. I’d spend most of my time in the large reception room, doing what I cannot remember. There were never very many other kids there, if any at all.

The large main room, where the adults gathered, had a bar and a dance floor with a constantly-playing juke box, and it always seemed to be crowded. I’d wander in only occasionally to ask my folks to get me a Coke or just out of sheer boredom.

Now, I was probably nine or ten at the time and already was well aware that I was fascinated by young men and desperately wanted to be like them. And one night there were two young men at the club. They may have been college boys or, since WWII was raging at the time, perhaps in the military: I can’t recall. 

What I can recall is that suddenly the dance floor had cleared and there, in the middle, were the two young men…dancing together! Not slow dancing, of course…jitterbugging. Everyone stood around clapping and laughing. I’m sure it was, to them, the equivalent of a truck driver dressing up as a woman at Halloween: really, really funny, you know? If anyone had thought for a nanosecond that the young men were dancing together because they really wanted to dance together, they would without question been ejected from the club and risked being seriously beaten.

But to me…!…I had never seen anything more wonderful in my entire life. Two men! Dancing together!

Children have and need role models. Most little boys want, at one time or another, to grow up to be a fireman, or a policeman, or a soldier or sailor…uniforms somehow seem to fascinate boys, probably because they represent authority, something every child subconsciously wants to have.

But when it comes to specific individuals children can look up to and aspire to be—a sports star or actor or singer or someone in public life, until recently gay children have been completely denied role models—someone they knew was like them. To be identified as openly gay was the kiss of death for any public figure.

When I was a child, the only time homosexuals were even mentioned was derogatorily, in a context of utter scorn or contempt. The only time they were portrayed on screen—and even then never specifically identified as being homosexual, but, then, they didn’t have to be—were as effeminate, prissy queens whose only purpose was for comic effect. (Sort of the equivalent of the few black actors allowed on screen…Stepp’n Fetchit-type visual jokes.)

As late as the 1950s, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. Yet it seems to have occurred to no one that telling a gay child that to be gay was to be beneath contempt may very well have created exactly the mental problems they were accused of having.

The slow but steady emergence of actors, singers, politicians, and even a very few sports stars (interestingly almost all lesbian) from the closet speaks well for the progress we have made. And yet that the same people who now accept us once scorned us leaves a bitter aftertaste.

But we’ll get over it.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from and; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/ You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site: 

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